It’s a walking city after all

I don’t know why I started doing it, but for one reason or another I set about recording my feet walking through Vancouver when I was up there last week. I assembled a bunch of the clips and slapped a song I listened to a great deal on my way up there, Scott and Shannon’s Nothing New. After editing the clips together in iMovie for about 30 minutes I’ve nearly gotten motion sickness, but hopefully you don’t feel that way while watching it.

13 Mb mpeg-4 quicktime (right-click to save-as since my server doesn’t recognize the mime-type)

All hail hypnoblog

I really like the Kottke.org reorganization. It’s a lot of what I’ve tried to do here in one way or another, but in an easier to read format. Having an intermingled single area for posts is a much better idea than what I’ve got now, this unweildy portal of all sorts of junk.

Best Buy Customer Disservice

I’ve determined that Best Buy is the Clear Channel of electronics superstores. Much like how the megaopoly of Clear Channel stations means no real local radio DJs, today I found out you can no longer actually call a Best Buy store.

About a month ago, I called a local best buy using their listed number, talked to someone in appliances and bought a washer. Well, it turns out that after a couple weeks I noticed it doesn’t exactly spray much water on clothes, not at all like the demo video that came with it. More like dribbling a few ounces of water instead of the robust sprayers shown in the company-provided instruction tape.

So today I call the same number to request a return. They first ask for my home phone number and name, which I find odd when I just want to talk to someone in the store, and when I relay the problem I find out that I need to go into the store to talk to someone in appliances. I tell the person that I just called my local store number to do just that — to see if I should come in and discuss a replacement or exchange. Then we begin a tango of words.

“So, you’re telling me that if I want to talk to someone in my local store, I need to go to the store, because calling the local number doesn’t actually reach the store”

“That is correct”

“So why even have local numbers anymore? Why not just tell everyone to call 1-800-best-buy to speak to the call center?”

“Well, sir, our employees are very busy this time of year and can’t answer phones”

“I called this number a month ago and spoke with someone on the floor”

“Well, that’s not really fair to the people that walked into the store”

“I know, I was in the store waiting for an employee to get off the phone for ten minutes when I was shopping there.”

“We’re very sorry sir”

“So, here’s my problem. I don’t want to drive 45 minutes to my local store to find out I missed something, or I can’t get a return, or that they could have scheduled it with me remotely.”

“Your best bet is to go into your local store”

“Right, but a month ago I called ahead to make sure they had it in stock before I drove. I just want to talk to someone there before I drive there so I won’t waste a couple hours on a pointless trip.”

“I’m sorry sir, this is a call center, only best buy employees may speak directly to stores now. Please visit your local store. Thanks.”

Best Buy has acheived a new low of cost-cutting superstore antics, to remove the entire ability to contact any local store while at the same time posing as if they are local. Their savings on customer service just cost them this customer, as I’m going to buy from my local Lowes or Sears from now on.

Guess what? Spam pays

You know that saying that crime doesn’t pay? Every day it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that spam does in fact pay.

As I delete comment spam after comment spam from PVRblog, I’ve noticed the products being sold are almost all over-the-counter or shady pharmacutical drugs that can be easily bought, sold, and shipped. Most of my email spam mirrors that as well.

It’s a low-risk thing when you think about it. You buy a minimal amount of inventory, then broadcast your message from one of the hundreds of businesses setup to help you, or free spam cannon programs you can download. They say that some percentage of folks buy stuff in spam, and even if that’s only 0.1% success, when you send out 5 million messages, you can make $5,000 if each sale gives you a profit of one dollar. If your profit is higher (and it should be), you can sell much less and still make that much money. Imagine it: one day of doing the devil’s work and you’ve made as much as you will in a month of work at a $60k desk job.

Four to five years ago, I used to spend quite a bit of energy on combating spam. I read anti-spammer email lists and newsgroups, I used a spamcop account, and I sent messages daily to every abuse@hostingprovider address I could track down that hosted these bastards. I watched hundreds of other vigilante spam fighters do the same and as we shut down site after site and got person after person cut off from their service, I noticed they kept coming back, only multiplied. Eventually I grew weary of the work I put out that didn’t seem to have much impact on the problem and started filtering my spam instead.

A few days ago I got some spam from a guy that has been sending me the same exact niche spam for 8 years. I know the guy that is doing it, I know where he lives, and I can tell you what dialup account he’s using right now if I looked. I’ve reported him a dozen times and gotten him kicked off ISPs but all these years later he’s still hawking his crappy products. Obviously, the guy never gave up and I’m convinced there’s a financial reason for it. Spam pays, and it probably pays big.

All this is a long way of saying that I have no doubt that every word of Mark Pilgrim’s post about the future of weblog spam is the gospel truth. I’ve seen it happen in email and usenet, and it’s going to happen to weblogs as well, and as hard as we fight, it’s not going to do a whole hell of a lot of good (Jason posted pretty much the same thing a week ago).

Even with my technical knowledge, a handful of custom filtering server-side and client-side programs, spam is getting through to me in such quantities that I wish I didn’t have to rely on email so much. Weblog spam is making me rethink commenting on any movable type site I run. It’s exhausting, pointless to fight, and I really wish we could come up with a magic bullet that removes the economic incentive to spam.

update: an Ask Slashdot post on attacking the spam business model

Beijing Opera

If you took one part circus clowns, one part chinese dance, one part rhythm gymnastics and mixed it with martial arts, you have Beijing Opera.

It’s like classic theater mixed in with fight scenes straight out of The Matrix.

Umm, thanks Apple

My powerbook was running at 533Mhz instead of 866Mhz, apparently thanks to 10.2.28. I upgraded to panther last week and it seems to have stuck since then.

Read the instructions at Leonard’s site to find out how to restore your former CPU power.

Fly the WiFi skies

While I’m guessing it could be difficult due to airport utilities restrictions and existing telecom contracts, I’d love to see one of the national airlines embrace wifi. Picture this: one airline being known for having free wireless near their gates at every major airport across the country. An airline that was wifi-friendly would be known by business people overnight as the airline to take (or at least the terminal to hang out nearby when you fly).

Washington Mutual is the only bank in the states that offers free ATM use for everyone, and it’s pretty much ingrained in my family and friends that if someone needs to stop at an ATM to grab some cash, everyone prefers the Washington Mutual one. As a result of their kind gesture, I have explored getting a home loan and business accounts with them (I always do my personal banking at a credit union), solely because I regard them as generous for not charging people pointless electronic transaction fees.

The pro-wifi airline could gain similar publicity and word-of-mouth buzz by offering free, open wireless access points near their gates. It wouldn’t cost that much to get a DSL drop near a gate and toss 2 or 3 $99 base stations into the ceiling. Annual operating costs for each airport could be as low as $1k a year, making a nationwide investment for every airport cost only a couple hundred grand (and I’m sure to make it cheaper, a company like Linksys or MS would donate the products if they got to plug them to users connecting). I imagine that whatever airline did it would be an instant hit with laptop users, and geeks would no longer need to search online for what airport offers wifi through whom and for how much. The last time I was in Denver, I noticed three different wifi vendors offering access in the terminal, all for different rates, while most airports I end up at don’t offer any at all.

The airline industry is notoriously a cut-throat business and with decreased leisure travel, razor thin profit margins, and pricing wars, a good gimmick would go a long way. It’s low cost, high utility, and would please a good deal of people that fly frequently. Eventually the same airline could outfit planes with wireless and be the business airline, but I can wait until that’s more of a realistic possibility; for now putting wireless in all their terminals should be the goal.

What do you say American? Alaska, are you in? JetBlue, want to do something even better than TV in every seat? Southwest, you’re known for keeping people sitting around your terminals, how about making them happy? United, you’ve been near bankruptcy for a couple years and we bailed you out, how about giving the people something back for all the money they gave you? Anyone?

(note: written while stranded wi-fi free in PDX, posted from my Vancouver hotel room which features open, free wireless. Canada knows how to party.)